2012 Conference Presentation
Reducing the limitations of developmental, intellectual and learning disabilities for individuals and their families is essential if we are to improve the health, productivity and general welfare of this vulnerable population in the United States and United Kingdom. In this paper we present historical and projected employment trends for the disabled and focus on transition barriers that exist to employment. Trends are examined by age, gender, race/ethnicity, income and other sociodemographic variables specifically for the US to demonstrate the urgent need to address on going disparities in this population.
Employment data in the US and UK are striking—according to the President’s Committee for People with Intellectual Disabilities, transition planning statistics are alarming: 90% of adults are not employed and fewer than 15% participate in post-secondary education. In the UK, the Centre for Disability Research at Lancaster University reports that 83% of people with learning disabilities are unemployed and just over 36% are involved in additional education or employment training.
A major initiative by the Department of Health, “Valuing Employment Now” was established to find jobs for those with learning disabilities. After three years the government reports limited progress in some areas of training and transition towards employment. Planning for transition to work must begin in high school and must include partnerships with community stakeholders. In the US this is accomplished through the Individual Education Plan (IEP), which includes transition planning upon high school graduation (e.g. post-secondary, vocational or employment) and integration within the community, from as early as age 14. Although required by law, nearly half of all states are not in compliance with the Federal requirements of the IEP process.
In the UK transition programs vary in effectiveness by region and many have been dismantled or replaced with other options, including private sector partnerships as a result of “Valuing Employment Now” that have not yet proven their ability to increase job opportunities for this population. Given the current emphasis in both countries on patient centered care and the opportunity for people with disabilities to age in place, it is timely to address employment-related issues as millions of developmentally, intellectually and learning disabled children will soon become disabled adults seeking their own opportunities to work and live within their communities.